Dispatch from BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller:
GREENVILLE, South Carolina—The two candidates were scheduled to be at Tommy’s Country Ham House at 10:45 a.m. this morning, a conflict deemed “coincidence” by the Romney campaign.
Romney arrived nearly an hour before his scheduled arrival time and briefly addressed the packed restaurant from a hastily assembled platform of plastic crates.
Romney lowered expectations for the primary, which he is now likely to lose, saying that “we’ve got a long way to go.”
The Gingrich campaign charged Romney with stacking the venue with out-of-state volunteers — which was at least true of dozens of college students holding signs outside the restaurant.
Romney spokesman Rick Gorka acknowledged that “like everyone else,” Romney has out of state volunteers that show up at events. He added that many in attendance were overflow from a packed headquarters event earlier in the day.
The Gingrich campaign, which looked forward to the showdown, hammered Romney for arriving early.
“We’re going to be here at the time scheduled,” said Gingrich traveling press secretary Nathan Naidu. “We’re not going to avoid a showdown like him.”